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Industrial Strategy

Part of Laser Misuse (Vehicles) Bill [Lords] (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 18th April 2018.

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Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng Conservative, Spelthorne 4:40 pm, 18th April 2018

There are a huge number of ambitious initiatives in the industrial strategy. We are very good in this House—Opposition Members certainly are—at running the country down and pointing out shortfalls. However, as my hon. Friend Eddie Hughes pointed out, we have some of the best universities in the world, and we have the best talent, as the Secretary of State mentioned. The trick, and the ambition, is to try to marry some of that talent with commercial productivity, and that is what the Government are trying to do. That is an exciting development. When we look at world-beating innovation and scientific research, we see that this country is right at the top of any list. We should celebrate that and try to improve on it, and I fully accept the remarks that have been made about that.

I am delighted that we are debating this issue because, as far as I can recall, it has been a very long time since we have talked about industrial strategy, certainly in this House. We are putting to bed a lot of the ghosts of the 1970s. I know that the Labour party does not necessarily want me to talk about the 1970s, but they were a disastrous era, when the so-called “industrial strategy” collapsed into a slightly absurd game of trying to pick winners and of backing industries that were totally failing. It is a real relief to hear a plan from the Secretary of State that moves away from some of those old ideas. Anyone who thinks we will drive innovation, R&D and talent by nationalising vast swathes of the British economy—anyone who thinks that is a viable option—deserves some sort of break or respite, because they are clearly not thinking particularly straight. I do not think it is right to confront this country with threats of nationalisation and confiscatory taxation. I do not think that helps the investment climate, and it is not a good form of industrial strategy. I am delighted that we are discussing this, and I look forward to contributions from Opposition Members that will be made in a more constructive spirit than the speech we heard just a few minutes ago.